Monday, September 23

The One Question of Extremism Apologia the NUS Cannot Answer

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PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO BEFORE HAND:
“Muslims must be kicked out of the country” – be banned
“Apostates in the ideal state would be killed” – is safe spaced
51:30 –
51:50 (My question)
58:10 – addresses me but not my question
58:35 – I ask my question again
59:00 – Malia’s response (or lack of)

I recently had the pleasure of attending an event held at UCL titled “Prevent: Promoting Prejudice or Preventing Extremism.” The importance of such an event was that it uncharacteristically hosted a balanced platform, with a truly independent moderator and two speakers who spoke in defence of PREVENT and two of those who opposed it in its entirety. This came as a change from the usual discussions on PREVENT at universities through the #StudentNotSuspects campaign, which hosts an array of Islamist extremists such as CAGE and only serves to legitimise one anti-PREVENT viewpoint.

Malia Bouattia – the recently elected head of the National Union of Students (NUS) and leader of the #StudentNotSuspects campaign – is not used to having a balanced platform on this issue, and it most definitely showed at UCL. The most interesting aspect of Malia’s input to this discussion was that she is uniquely placed to reform a counter-extremism strategy as she sees fit, as the NUS makes no secret of providing an advocacy against what is deemed as “unsafe” speech. So the question is, how does Malia, her outspoken partners CAGE, and her NUS deal with the issue of extremism?

This is when I asked my question. I stated (in the recording) why is it that fascism is banned, and Islamist theocratic ideals are legitimised? Why is it that the statement “In my ideal state Muslims would be barred” is rightly seen as fascist (and must actually be banned in NUS’ opinion), but the statement “In my ideal state apostates would be killed” is seen as just a non-violent belief that should be coddled under the safe space of “religious rights”. In fact, those who preach the second statement aren’t just excused for, but become legitimised in campaigns working against Government policy.

It became crystal clear. Those driving the #StudentNotSuspects anti-PREVENT campaign only see fascism as a problem, and not Islamist extremism. They are advocating for policies that are more illiberal than PREVENT by issuing complete banning on what is deemed “fascist”, and proclaiming that any critical challenge to Islamists is deemed “racist”.

Malia had replied to the question by stating “she didn’t quite understand it”, and then went onto bizarrely justify the NUS’ no platform policy. I repeated the question again, yet the same answer was given (again all on the recording). I just couldn’t comprehend how she completely understood the necessity of challenging dehumanisation seen in fascism – as that dehumanisation of the ‘other’ can lend itself to violence – but could not fathom the idea of tackling such dehumanisation legitimised in Islamist denominations.

Maybe then her colleague and Vice President (Welfare) of the NUS could answer? The short answer is no. After finally establishing some form of dialogue with Shelly through the medium of exchanging online op-eds, it became clear that she had no answer as well. To read the full debate between me and Shelly please click here. However, Shelly did raise an important point – that I was essentially lying. I will now give a blaringly obvious example. #StudentsNotSuspects makes no secret that it works with CAGE (listed as a regular speaker and even in the resources section). CAGE makes no secret that they work closely with Sheikh Haitham al Haddad – here he is in a fundraising video for CAGE. Lastly, here is Haitham al Haddad stating that a “non-deep” from of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is permitted. I have so many examples to give which makes this all the more frustrating. I am not even talking about how CAGE staff members dodge questions on apostasy killing and FGM by claiming “I’m not a theologian” – but by actually partnering with an organisation which explicitly prescribes barbaric, intolerant and extreme practices.

Just as is seen in the rise of anti-Muslim belief, the rise of Islamism has also increased the rate of violence to those deemed inferior. On many occasions this includes other Muslims, with the Shia Muslims suffering at an extraordinary rate in Iraq because of the hangovers of generational discriminatory belief within certain Islamist ideologies.

Identity-politics has now clouded many people’s judgement in the important discussion of counter extremism. The age old tribal mentality of defending one’s group identity of any wrong-doing has unequivocally led to the blatant hypocrisy that was projected at the PREVENT event. What is needed is a coalition of different faiths, races and genders united under ideals and not separate identities. A unity that is based on tackling bigotry and discrimination derived from fascism, Islamism and wherever it may rear its ugly head.

The event was painfully obvious that the anti-PREVENT speakers were not used to even the slightest challenge to their views on PREVENT. Therein lies the issue, a lack of nuanced discussion and debate has infantilised students to the point of discussing feelings over fact, and therefore if we are to ever strive to the ideals of universal rights we must be empowered to challenge extremist/fascist ideologies through debate, dialogue and discussion.

 

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mm

Haydar is a blogger, an activist and founder of the #Right2Debate movement

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